By: Christine Morgan
When the time comes, child, when the time comes
Fleet through the hoarfrost and swift through the snow
The night ever-longer, never-longer, never-ending
In the brittle black crystal so star-pierced, relentless
Sleigh-skids through deep drifts spinning up skirls
Skate-skims on ice-sheets etch-scratch stark white
Freya's veils skein the skies, silken shift and shimmer
And I run with you, child, ravenous fate close behind.
On we go, on we go, field and fjord, farm and forest
Such a weight you are in my arms, such a burden
Clinging to me, your small hands, clutching tight
Seeking safety, seeking comfort, warmth and love
Why should you not? It is what you have known
All you have known; nothing of pain, want, and fear
Nothing of the wolf at our heels, hunger chasing.
Now it is dark, child, dark and darkest, it is cold
Now the frigid wind whistles, winter's bitterest bite
And the beast blowing the white rime of its breath
Paws and claws, teeth and jaws, the maw ever-wide
With each stride loping relentless on powerful legs
Bunched haunches, strong sinews, thick-bristling fur
The breadth of its chest, the black pit of its gullet
Eyes gleaming dull silver, dead silver corpse-shine
Upon unearthed treasure, lost barrow-grave goods
Scattered in bone and chill ashes of forgotten kings.
Harder I run now, harder, heart-pounding, feet numb
Joints aching, limbs weakened, so aged, so frail
Blood thin as water, skin like parchment and pale
The knots of my knuckles, the hunch of my spine
Crone-lines and crow-tracks the tale of my face
A year-saga, gnarled and seamed, a tree's rough bark
But oh, I was young once, child, young once like you.
Young and fair, young and strong, oh yes, I once was
Plump and life-ripe, rich in health, rich in beauty
The whole world all before me in all of its promise
I played in the spring-time, as you too should play
Buds to blossom, lambing, shoots greening the earth
I dallied my summer, dallied, laughing, and lazed
Meadow-flowers, lakes sparkling, sweetest fruit
And harvest would come, the butcher, the plenty
Feasting like lords, growing fat, growing merry
While already the winter's long shadow drew near.
And now it looms larger, child, now the end closes in
Giving chase, the fell hunter, pursuing its tender prey
However fast I might run, the wolf comes on faster
Nearer than ever, an inescapable, inexorable doom
Foam-spewing frost-fangs snap the hem of my cloak
Ready to snag and drag and bring down, rend and rip
Oh, my old bones creak brittle, my feeble heart burns.
When I stumble and falter, which I will, which I must
When at last the dread killing-cold dark overpowers
My throat laid open, guts savaged, my red blood spilt
When this aged body collapses to the hard-frozen earth
In my final moments, with my final gasps of breath
I will with my ragged corpse-flesh curl around you
Protecting in my death your precious renewal of life.
To pass through the black shadow, survive, and endure
Be reborn with the morn in the dawn of the day
Rise and arise, eyes shining bright and warm-smiling
In all fair promise, through the ages, year upon year
My daughter, my darling, my golden-haired Yul.
About the author:
Christine Morgan grew up in the high desert and moved to a cool rainy coast as soon as she could. Though anything but the outdoorsy type, she loves trees and water... preferably viewed through a cozy window or from the deck of a cruise ship. Alaska, Norway, Scotland and Germany/Austria are her vacation destinations of choice. Seeing the Northern Lights in person is on her bucket list. She's currently four cats toward her eventual fate as a crazy cat lady; yes, she does talk to them, but don't worry, she draws the line at knitting them little sweaters